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Northern Ireland is the only region in the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is still prohibited. This could soon change, given the fall of Northern Ireland’s ruling party and the political shakeups from the last elections. Several parties, including Sinn Féin, are mobilizing to demand Northern Ireland get in step with the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to marriage equality.
In Ireland, Marriage is Still Defined as One Man, One Woman
So far, all attempts at marriage equality in Northern Ireland have failed. Last October, the majority Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which defends the interests of the Protestant community, reiterated its firm opposition to the project. Prime Minister Arlene Foster explained that while she had nothing against gays, until the end of the legislature in 2021, she’d do nothing to redefine marriage.
Despite Foster’s comments, marriage equality proponents were not defeated. In the March 2 election, Sinn Féin almost took the lead after the government’s fall following a corruption case. One Sinn Féin candidate argued that her queer friends in Ireland could marry — but those who live only a few miles away in Northern Ireland, could not.
While Michelle O’Reilly, head of Sinn Féin, attempts to find compromise with the DUP, the DUP maintains its opposition. Foster doubled down on her previous arguments, telling the BBC “I know plenty of people in that community who don’t want to see marriage redefined and are quite content to live in partnership.”
The Never-Ending Argument
Marriage equality has been a sticking point in Northern Ireland for some time. In November 2015, the Irish Parliament voted in favor of marriage for all. But the DUP mobilized against this draft amendment by launching a petition of concern. If 30 deputies decide to support this petition, then a right of veto is required in the proposed amendment. This is why the amendment has stalled.
So far, the talks for the formation of a new coalition government have failed. Gays and lesbians in Northern Ireland will still have to wait.